It’s that time of year in the MBA admissions calendar – Round 1 & Round 2 is over, interviews are done and decisions have been made. And not everyone is happy. If waitlisted, you’re probably feeling vulnerable right now. Some options include Round 3, January intake, rolling admissions schools. But if you have decided to stay on the waitlist, it will ease your anxiety to work on an update letter, rather than watching the clock and hoping for the best. And it’s best you work on it with a professional. Most waitlisted applicants engage in a mental conversation about how they are not good enough. However, if you’re on the waitlist, you have been deemed qualified. Unqualified applicants get a rejection letter. The waitlist does not mean, “you better get your $hit together, kid – then maybe we’ll think about letting you in here.” But that’s often how it’s interpreted. Here’s probably what happened. Someone with your profile submitted an application and their qualifications were a smidge higher (incidentally, this is why you need to apply to several schools.) Adcom couldn’t justify giving the seat to you for this reason. Some other Taiwanese female enterpreneur or white male banker from Minnesota beat you out. You can pray that they will decline and go to another school. Or, work actively to heighten your personal brand. Write your elevator pitch. What makes you irreplaceable? Do the deep thinking and soul searching you might have sidestepped before. Rather than trying to obtain parity with the class profile – which has never inspired a soul – focus how they NEED you there and why. How will the class be enriched by the diversity you will add? What unique contribution could you offer their academic community? It might be a good idea to consider how your profile falls short – but don’t take the GMAT to go from 740 to 760. Or attempt to redo your entire undergraduate college career if your GPA is a 3.4. Rather than taking frenetic action to become “good enough,” create one solid, succinct update letter that showcases your ZING in a way you had not previously captured. Two other items that might need attention 1) Clear and realistic post-MBA goal. Fuzzy, haphazard goal essays signal that you might end up becoming deadweight on their job placement statistics. Also – do some extra school research and alumni networking. It will make you look active and engaged. In your update letter, use what you have gained to demonstrate an inextricable nexus between your goals and their program. Of course it’s intimidating that you have to re-audition for the role. But you won’t win this by attempting to remedy all your weaknesses. Make a clear, compelling value proposition that will capture their attention. Focus on your strengths.
January intake might save the day
Everything went sideways with the GMAT….you broke your leg…or ended up working a ton after changing jobs. Whatever it was, you missed the boat on getting those @#$% MBA applications in by Round 2. But don’t want to sit on your hands for 18 slow-passing months before starting business school in 9/17. Sometimes Round 3 is worth the risk. Tick tock goes the clock. Maybe you’re unemployed. Been over 30 for a while now. Or working for an evil Disney villain ⇒ I’ve had success with Round 3 clients. Round 3 is there for a reason. In your application, mention why you’re applying in R3. That helps. But the fact is, most of the seats are taken before Round 3. Another option, or perhaps a back-up plan to R3, would be to apply for January intake, or J-term. There are a few caveats: with the exception of INSEAD, you will be skipping the summer internship. For that reason, J-term isn’t ideal for people looking to switch industries. But if you are doing an MBA to advance in your current industry, January intake might be a wise choice, saving you time and money. Most top MBA programs that offer J-term intake are located in Canada and Europe, with a few exceptions.
US schools include Columbia and Thunderbird. NYU-Stern offers J-term intake for part-time students.
In Canada, Schulich and Ivey offer January intake, while and Queen’s allows students to begin in April and May, respectively.
In Europe, INSEAD, HEC, IMD and Erasmus offer January intake; IE has rolling admissions.
You’re probably wondering if applying for January intake gives you an advantage. There are mixed reviews. However, make no mistake about it, Career Services cares about their placement statistics because it factors into rankings. If you don’t need an internship and already have experience in your desired industry, you 1) definitely won’t be dragging down their internship placement stats, and 2) seem more likely to have commanded a full-time job offer by graduation. If you plan to apply to Columbia – I would recommend submitting for J-term over regular term after round 2. They have rolling admissions, but the fact is, you’re kind of behind the 8-ball if you apply later than November for the following year. Just like any school that has an early action round, most seats have already gone to the highest bidders. For J-term, the Columbia deadline is October 2016 for January of 2017, but submit your application as soon as possible to increase your chances. One thing remains the same. You want to capture the adcom’s attention with clear and compelling application materials. Set a consultation appointment with me to learn about how you can position yourself for success and set yourself apart from the competition.
#10 – Is your GPA or GMAT is lower than the average? If so, between now and Round 1, you will want to provide evidence of your ability to handle the program. This can take many forms. 1) one of the most popular options for those with quant-deficient backgrounds or low quant grades/GMAT is to do MBA Math. 2) take a Statistics and/or Calculus course at a reputable local university. 3) HBS Strategic Management certificate program. I believe that one of my overrepresented candidates with very poor grades and zero extracurriculars was admitted to Stern, in part, because he was getting A or A- grades in the HBS Strategic Management certificate program. If the problem is verbal – focus on acing a writing or literature course, or engage in a public speaking group. But most of all, make sure your recommendations and essays offer ample evidence of your lucidity in English.
#9 – Hobbies and interests. As you probably know, you’re not competing against the applicant pool, but against people with your “profile.” Schools want diversity, so if you are an overrepresented candidate, it’s very important for you to demonstrate uniqueness and well-roundedness. Here’s an example. In essays, Indians often discuss their leadership role on the cricket team at university. However, I wish I had a dime for every essay I’ve read by a former Indian cricket captain. It isn’t going to separate you much from the competition. Put the focus on on interests and activities that really separate you from other people with your “profile.” Don’t run out and take up a bunch of new hobbies, because that will send up a red flag with the adcom. However, increase your participation in a hobby that 1) separates you from other people with your profile and 2) you can speak about honestly in an interview situation. For example, one of my Indian applicants was a champion equestrian and coached him to discuss this somewhere in his application. If possible, use one of your essays to discuss a hobby that would add an interesting dimension to the class. Applicants often fixate on the GMAT, but overlook other ways to set themselves apart. Don’t miss this opportunity.
#8 – You want to show progression. The most obvious way is to get promoted. However, there are many ways of advancing to a higher level of responsibility – community work, political volunteering, alumni associations. For example, volunteer at the SPCA on Saturdays, do your best, and let them know you could help with their business operations. Lick envelopes to help a political candidate you support, and you might get bumped up to Canvassing Manager. So think broadly about this, if a work promotion doesn’t seem likely over the coming year. The goal is to show that when invited to their club, you add value and play well with others – hence – they give you a bigger role in the organization.